My Plate was introduced in 2011 and is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The My Plate icon replaces the My Pyramid icon which has been in place since 2005. The My Plate icon is meant to be used as an easy to understand reminder for healthy eating rather than as a specific guide. Every meal does not have to follow the proportions shown on the icon. This quote from First Lady Michelle Obama about what parents should see on their children's plates may help to clarify this point:
"As long as they're half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we're golden. That's how easy it is."
In addition to the Icon and the five food groups, My Plate includes several key messages, nutritional information, and tips for healthy eating. You will find these incorporated in the unit materials. These messages include:
- Avoid oversized portions
- Make at least half of your grains whole grains
- Make at least half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Vary your veggies
- Get calcium-rich foods
- Go lean with protein
- Drink Water instead of sugary drinks
The guidelines also include information about what exactly is included in each of the five food groups and how much of each group is needed each day. Here are the serving recommendations for children ages 9-13:
As you can see, it could get a little confusing with some servings being measured in cups, others in ounces, and others in "servings." Fortunately, the USDA also has information about exactly how much of specific foods makes up a serving. Here is a chart that shows the servings sides of some common foods:
It can be a little confusing, but fortunately there is a lot of information on the USDA My Plate website. One of the best resources is the Ten Tips Nutrition Education Series. Each of these 14 colorful and informative printouts offer 10 tips for better eating in accordance with the My Plate recommendations. These would be great as posters for your room or to send home with students.
Another good resource comes from The University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Alice Henneman MS, RD has created a terrific slideshow about My Plate.
If you are looking for the no-hassle way to teach My Plate, you can purchase my 80+ page Eating Healthy with My Plate unit which is jam-packed with posters, handouts, worksheets, graphic organizers and quizzes. There are activities for each group and everything is ready-to-use. To the best of my knowledge, at this time this is the most comprehensive ready-to-use resource available.